Inbound marketing and sales and the need for an SLA

All articles | Marketing
Published Jun 16, 2016 | Written by Jeremy Knight

The old sales playbook would likely quote "always be closing" or "it’s a numbers game". The sales team would be "calling to touch base" or overheard, for the 50th time that day, saying "if I could show you a way…"

Essentially, if a sales rep wasn’t spending the larger portion of their day hustling prospects, trying every trick in the traditional sales playbook to get that deal signed, sealed and delivered, they were likely not long for the role.

The sales manager didn’t care if the solution they were selling benefited the potential customer or not. Their world was driven by the numbers, and "the numbers don’t lie". Unlike the buyer because "buyers are liars" (sic) so, get your foot in that door and show me the money.

But the world around us has changed. Customers are empowered by technology, the internet and the social web. Today, they want to inform and educate themselves long before they are ready to speak with someone in sales.

Sales has been slow to catch on - but now they have to because those old ways simply don’t work like they used to. As prospects seek out information online, they don’t even see companies that fail to provide what they are looking for, particularly in the "awareness" and "consideration" stages of a buying cycle.

If your business is not providing useful information and valuable experiences when and where customers are searching for it, you are simply not visible to them. And if your content focuses only on the features and benefits of your product or service, rather than the interests, fears and aspirations of your audience, prospects are likely to bounce off your pages in pursuit of someone who does meet their needs.

The new sales playbook is a sales AND marketing playbook

For too long, the tension between sales and marketing has seen leads chucked over the wall with marketing wondering why sales aren't closing them and sales bemoaning how crap they are.

What we need is a better dialogue between the two. A collaborative approach that recognises a common goal with common data points and metrics. We need alignment around a shared vision. In short, we need a sales and marketing SLA.

Such an SLA will act as a contract between the two teams. An agreement to work cohesively and coherently together, sharing information and, ultimately, closing the loop so both gain actionable intelligence that helps improve outcomes from their efforts.

Now you have the foundation for inbound sales

A savvy salesperson recognises the shift of power in their relationships with prospects. They understand the futility of the old "always be closing" mantra and adopt instead a more consultative "always be helping" approach.

Where their more traditional brethren were attached to their phones for nigh on 40 hours a week, an inbound sales professional is first seeking to understand the context of a prospect's interest.

They want to add value to the experience of connecting with them. At the right time and in the right way, as demonstrated by the behaviour and intention of the prospect.

And they see the value of the marketing output - content that helps inform, educate and qualify a person to a point where interaction with a trusted advisor is desirable.

As long as they are focused on the best outcome for the customer as opposed to the best outcome for their bonus, the experience for that person is likely to be a good one. Irrespective of whether or not they buy.

The inbound sales rep has put away cold calling, list building and elevator pitching and is instead more focused on finding ways to add value as prospects get closer to qualified. You are more likely to find them using social selling, blogging or content that responds to interests more associated with the "consideration" and "decision" stages of the buying cycle.

The takeaways:

  • Power has now shifted from the seller to the buyer
  • The traditional sales playbook is broken
  • Sales and marketing need to work together with a common cause
  • The new breed of salesperson is consultative and focused on the customer
  • Inbound marketing and inbound sales are intrinsically linked

With this in mind, you may find value in the eBook below.

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Published by Jeremy Knight June 16, 2016
Jeremy Knight